Photo of Anna Franklin

Anna Franklin
Professor of Visual Perception and Cognition
T: +44 (0)1273 678885


My research aims to:

  1. Understand how we perceive and process colour
  2. Establish how colour perception and cognition develops
  3. Use colour as a testing ground for broader theoretical debates, such as how language and thought interact

I conduct experiments with participants from across the lifespan (infancy to adulthood), and use a range of methods such as eye-tracking, psychophysics, colour science and the event-related potential approach. 

So far, I have led research projects on: the development of colour categorisation; the impact of colour term acquisition on colour perception; the origins of colour preference; and chromatic discrimination in children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC).  This research attempts to address fundamental issues in cognitive and developmental science.  For example, my research on the development of colour categorisation addresses broader questions such as: how and when do categories form?; what is the relationship between categories in language and thought?; how are categories expressed in the brain?  I have provided converging evidence that infants categorise colour, and this has contributed to a long-standing multi-disciplinary debate on whether the division of the colour spectrum into discrete categories (e.g., red, green, blue) in both language and thought is arbitrary, or whether there are constraints on how and where categories form in the colour spectrum. 

I lead the Sussex Colour Group:, and the Sussex Baby Lab:


Grants, Consultancies and Awards

  • €149,645, European Research Council, Proof of Concept Award, PI, ‘The development,                       evaluation and commercialisation of an early years test of colour vision deficiency’, 2016-2018
  • £5,000, Sussex Enterprise Panel Operational Group Funding, PI, Sussex Innovation Centre, 2016
  • Cosatto, consultancy on infant directed design, 2015
  • 'The effect of colour on learning in the classroom' (PI), commercial research project and consultancy, 2014-2015
  • £127,936, co-investigator with Amanda Ludlow (PI), Arnold Wilkins, Peter Allen, Stacey Coulter, David Simmons, Action Medical Research. 'Diagnosis and treatment of visual and visuoperceptual anomolies in Autism Spectrum Conditions, 2013-2016
  • €1.48 million, PI, European Research Council, Starting Grant Award. 'The Origin and Impact of Colour Categories in Language and Thought' (project CATEGORIES), 2012-2018
  • Researcher of the Year, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences, University Surrey, 2010
  • £7,000, King Saud University.  ‘Ecological Valence and Colour Preference’, with Abdul Al-Rasheed, 2010
  • ESRC, PhD studentship, £53,210 ‘The Effect of Language on Pre-Attentive Colour Perception’, primary supervisor for student James Alvarez, 2009-2012 
  • £1,440, PI, Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary. ‘The Effect of Context on Biological Components of Infant Colour Preference’, URB/38024, 2010
  • £99,796, PI, Economic and Social Research Council Grant.
    Hemispheric Asymmetries in Categorical Perception of Orientation in Infants and Adults, RES-000-22-2861. With Dr. Di Catherwood (University of Gloucestershire), 2008-2009
  • Centre for Learning Development, University of Surrey. Statistical analysis, 2008
  • Dyrup Ltd. Consultancy on infant colour perception, 2007
  • £9,877, Research and Enterprise Support Grant. Colour Perception in Children with Autism, 2006-2007
  • Wish Films. Consultancy on attention in toddlers for development of a TV programme for toddlers, 2006
  • £25,000, Joint Innovation Fund Grant. The Origin of Colour Categories.
    With Dr. Amanda Holmes (University of Roehampton) and Prof. Ian Davies (University of Surrey), 2005-2006
  • £6,000, Research and Enterprise Support Grant. Infant Colour Preference, 2004-2005
  • Economic Social Research Council Post-doctoral Fellowship, PTA-026-27-0110, 2003-2004
  • Economic and Social Research Council PhD Studentship, R42200124191, 2001-2003



BBC Radio 4, 'Technicolour: Colour Naming'; BBC World, 'The Why Factor: Blue'; BBC Horizon, 'Do you See What I See?'; National Public Radio (USA); The Naked Scientist, BBC 5 Live; Southern Counties Radio; Eagle Radio; Radio 6PR Perth (Australia); Beat Radio (Ireland); Mercury Radio; BBC News Online; Nature News; The Times.


Past and Current PhD students

  • Dr. Oliver Wright
  • Dr. Gilda Vicky Drivonikou
  • Dr. Alexandra Clifford
  • Dr. Abdul Al-Rasheed
  • Dr. Chloe Taylor
  • Dr. James Alvarez
  • Dr. John Maule
  • Dr. Lewis Forder
  • Marie Rogers
  • Alice Skelton
  • Lucy Somers